Gender Diversity Improves Outcomes

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Q&A with orthopedic surgeon Claire D. Eliasberg, MD, on the importance of female representation in sports medicine.

Why did you choose to enter the sports medicine field?
I loved playing sports growing up, and I believe that doing so provided me with valuable life skills such as work ethic, teamwork and leadership. I’ve also had a lifelong interest in medicine and have been fortunate to have several great mentors along the way who introduced me to the field. Working in sports medicine allows me to combine two of my passions, and knowing how important sports participation has been to me, I aspire to help others continue the activities they enjoy.

Are female athletes more susceptible to certain injuries than their male counterparts?
Female athletes do suffer certain injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament ruptures and stress fractures, at higher rates than male athletes do. We’re still learning about why this is the case, but there are a number of anatomic, hormonal, biomechanical, neuromuscular and environmental factors that likely play a role.

How can providers deliver a more targeted approach for female athletes?
Healthcare providers should offer excellent care to all of their patients. However, female athletes in organized sports are often faced with the challenge of fewer resources than their male counterparts. Physicians should always be cognizant of the risk factors and resource disparities specific to each patient, and the care provided should be customized accordingly. Patient education is also an incredibly important component of care, and providing female athletes with the appropriate knowledge about their diagnosis and ensuring they receive the complementary support (such as injury prevention training and nutritional guidance) is crucial to their success.

Why is female representation so important in sports medicine?
Research suggests that patient-provider concordance (patients being treated by a physician sharing similar characteristics) may be associated with improved outcomes. There are many potential theories for this, including more effective communication (resulting in more accurate diagnoses) and greater trust (leading to improved patient adherence). While female representation is increasing, the percentage of women in both sports medicine and orthopedic surgery is still quite small. Gender diversity is only one part of the equation, but by increasing the number of women in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine to more closely resemble the broader patient population, it affords patients more options. OSM

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